Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Resistance is Futile. (No, really, stop.)

Since admitting is the first step, I'm just going to come right out and say it: I am stubborn. I have definitely learned a lot over the years about choosing my battles and will freely admit it when I'm wrong, but I still have a ways to go in other aspects. I derive great pleasure from ceaselessly banging up against walls, refusing to look around and realize that there was an unlocked door there all along that I could simply open and walk through. Part of this resistance must come from my shrinking but still prevalent adolescent love of drama and suffering. Oh, how romantic it is to be in pain! The exquisite tragedy! Luckily, the older I get, the less patience I have for unnecessary discomfort. I've survived enough real life tragedy now to understand how ridiculous it is to generate or invite in any more. And yet...

There is still this escapist part of me that wants nothing to do with reality and goes to great lengths to avoid it. Every time I end another protracted period of resistance to something perfectly benign, I always marvel at my ability to convince myself that whatever I'm resisting will kill me...and of course it never does. No matter how painful the confrontation, how drastic the change, I always come out the other side stronger, (sometimes) wiser and closer to my truest self.

Lately, a useful and safe tool for exploring my resistance has been my bhakti flow practice. There is plenty to resist- the room is hot, there is little to no rest between poses, sometimes sweat gets in my eyes. Sounds terrible, but beyond the physical challenges, the instructor inspires a lighthearted, playful attitude so that as my left quad begins to shake and my ego starts screaming, "AhhHH! I'm going to DIE!" I can laugh and calmly remind myself that, no, you're not. I keep breathing, smiling, move through my vinyasa and I'm fine. See? That wasn't so hard, was it? I know it's working because we get to the end and despite how hard it was, I always want to keep going. I want more opportunities to show myself just how capable I am of opening the door and walking through. Because I'm willing to put the work in and push myself one breath, one inch farther than I thought I could ever reach, I have been receiving an incomparable gift- myself, a bit more clear, vibrant and pure than the practice before.

This underground river of joy I've tapped into in my bhakti practice is beginning to spread into life off of the mat. The resistance and the weighty fear it inspires still lurk just under the surface. It crowds into my mind when it's time to do something important and, like Fox News, spews a slew of irrational anxieties all over the place. Before I would become so overwhelmed by everything that could go wrong ("They won't like you." "They're going to be mad at you." "You're going to fail." etc) that I'd continue resisting my task until it had blown up into something totally unmanageable looking. Believe me, I still resist. There are some important things that I'm avoiding right now in writing this. However, with curiosity and compassion piqued, it's easier to see how I can actually conquer challenges. When my crazy ego starts telling me that calling my health insurance company is going to kill me, I can recognize how irrational that is, have a good laugh, make the call and prove to myself that it's really not a big deal. Most things aren't. If yoga has taught me anything thus far, it is that anything can be survived if you just keep breathing.

Take a deep breath right now. Feel better?

My strong, productive energies wax and wane. I'm not sure that I will ever entirely stop having resistance to the challenging tasks and moments that require my attention. But at least now I have the presence of mind to know that the only things that can actually kill me are tigers, lightening, MUNI vehicles and the like. Hopefully, with continued bhakti practice, I'll be able to fit into my big girl pants, stop hitting the wall and walk through the door. It sounds so simple! Just keep breathing, just keep breathing...

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